QUESTION: What is the best thornless blackberry I can grow? I want to add them to my garden this year, but I don’t know the difference between any of the varieties. — Walter C.
ANSWER: There are several good varieties of thornless blackberry plants, which we’ve listed below. Which one is right for you really depends on what you’re looking for. Some gardeners want low maintenance plants they don’t have to stake, while others are in it for the sweetest berries. Whatever your priorities are, the list below should give you some ideas about which thornless blackberry variety is right for you.
Apache Thornless Blackberries
Apache sprouts more berries and larger berries than either Arapaho or Navaho, though all three were created at the University of Arkansas. You do not need to support the plants with stakes or a trellis. Its berries are shiny and black but firm. Apache thornless blackberries have proven themselves resistant to rust and other blackberry diseases, although they do tend to fall victim to sunscald. This variety ripens in between Arapaho and Navaho.
Arapaho Thornless Blackberries
Arapaho is another variety from the University of Arkansas with an erect growing pattern. Plants produce eight to 10 quarts of berries one to two inches long. Arapaho berries are prized for having extremely small seeds. Plants are disease resistant and hardy, and they should be given a spot with full or partial sunlight. This is the earliest variety of thornless blackberry to harvest.
Black Diamond Thornless Blackberries
Black Diamond is a popular choice with gardeners, ranking with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the best selling blackberry plant in 2004-2005. It produces uniformly shaped large berries that are firm and black. You can expect to get a medium to high yield from Black Diamond thornless blackberry plants.
Chester Thornless Blackberries
Chester is a strong variety that resists sunburn and cane blight as well as being hardy in the winter. The semi-erect plants will need staking or a trellis, but the berries are high quality and large. This variety will allow you to harvest late in the season. Chester bears medium to large blackberries with a mild taste.
Hull Thornless Blackberries
Hull is a semi-erect thornless blackberry that will require staking or a trellis. The berries it produces are sweeter than those from Chester thornless blackberry plants, but Hull is not as winter hardy as Chester. With Hull thornless blackberries, you’ll get a medium yield of fairly firm berries that are sized from medium to large. Hull thornless blackberries are prone to sunscald.
Navaho Thornless Blackberries
Another plant from the University of Arkansas, Navaho produces super sweet berries from the end of June through August. Gardeners in zones 6 through 10 can grow it without using stakes or trellis to support the plants. Berries from a Navaho thornless blackberry plant are the sweetest of the University of Arkansas’ varieties, with a sugar content of 11.7. Navaho ripens later than both Apache and Arapaho thornless blackberries. It is resistant to double blossom but can fall victim to orange rust.
Triple Crown Thornless Blackberries
Triple Crown is valued for producing lots of delicious berries, with some of the berries being jumbo sized. The bushes continue to put out berries from the middle of July through the middle of August, and just a few plants will give you a bountiful harvest. The semi-erect bushes perform best when staked and are resistant to disease. Gardeners in zones 5 to 9 can grow Triple Crown thornless blackberries in slightly acidic soil that drains well, planted in full sun to partial shade.
Whatever you’re looking for in a thornless blackberry plant, one of these varieties will go perfectly in your garden.